The Pittsburgh Penguins made a bold move ahead of NHL free agency when they locked down forward Rickard Rakell in a six-year, $30 million contract. It's a risky move to lock down Rakell at that price, especially given the team is still hoping to get a deal done with Evgeni Malkin. However, according to Pierre LeBrun, Rakell's contract extension is not expected to “close the door” on the Penguins “ability or desire” to re-sign Malkin in free agency.
The Rakell signing does not close the door on Penguins’ desire or ability to re-sign Malkin. But we know Malkin also wants to hear from other teams. So, will be interesting indeed. https://t.co/7leNJLEeY0
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 12, 2022
After the Rakell deal, the Penguins have roughly $10 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly. While that would leave them enough to sign Malkin to an extension, there are other holes on the roster that need to be addressed.
Assuming Malkin signed a deal with a similar average annual value to that of Kris Letang ($6.1 million), the Penguins would only have around $3 million to work with to sign other free agents, meaning they'd likely be looking at minimum deals. However, it may be a bit optimistic to think that Malkin would be willing to return at that price, especially given that he's reportedly open to meeting with other teams in free agency, something he's never done throughout his NHL career.
Malkin is one of the most experienced centers in the NHL and has been at the top of his game for over a decade now. There's hardly a contending team that wouldn't benefit from bringing the 16-year veteran on board, and he's sure to have plenty of teams expressing interest when he hits the open market.
The Penguins will surely be at the forefront of the Malkin sweepstakes in hopes of bringing back the 35-year-old on a new deal, but it's far from a guarantee. Still, it seems that the Rickard deal won't have much of an impact on whether or not Malkin returns to Pittsburgh.